Free Options for Filing Your Taxes

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The I.R.S. supports two programs that offer free tax help to underserved groups. One is the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, which generally helps people with income of $58,000 or less, as well as people with disabilities and those who speak limited English. The program works with local community groups, which staff offices during tax season with volunteers trained by the I.R.S. You can use the I.R.S. locator tool to find a site near you. Many require that you make an appointment. (You can also go to GetYourRefund.org, a VITA partner that helps families with somewhat higher incomes — up to $66,000.)

The second is the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program, which generally offers free tax help to people 60 and older. The program specializes in tax matters unique to older people, like pensions and retirement-related issues. (Many of the sites are operated by the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide.)

MilTax, a program of the Defense Department, offers free tax preparation and help to service members and their families. The program includes tax software that addresses questions specific to the military, like deployments and combat and training pay.

The I.R.S. Free File program offers no-cost online tax programs to people who earn $73,000 or less. The program began in 2003 as a way to offer do-it-yourself tax software to the public, through a pact between the I.R.S. and the Free File Alliance, a collection of commercial vendors.

But the program was not widely used, in part because the I.R.S. lacked money to promote it. While 70 percent of filers were eligible to use it, just 2.4 percent did, according to a federal review. H&R Block dropped out of the federal program in 2020, and last year Intuit, which makes the popular TurboTax program, said it was leaving as well. In its regulatory filings, Intuit said it had left because the Free File agreement was changed in 2019 to “eliminate the pledge by the I.R.S.” that the agency wouldn’t offer a competing service.

Still, eight software providers are participating this year, including TaxAct and TaxSlayer. “These companies have a good product,” said Tim Hugo, executive director of the Free File alliance. Some states offer free state tax returns through FreeFile as well.

Surveys have found that a vast majority of users are happy with Free File, Mr. Hugo said. “People like the product,” he said. “We just need more people to know about it.”

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